France and England cannot agree who invented bubbly. Amanda Barnes pops a few myths.
As the story goes, an old French monk, Dom Perignon, discovered Champagne completely by accident one day in 1697 – one of those beautiful mishaps that would change the world forever. After bottling his wine, he laid it down to rest for the winter and when he cracked it open the following year, he poured a glass and was surprised by this miracle product.
“Come quick!” he called to his robed colleagues, “I am drinking stars!” And so Champagne was born, allegedly.
While Dom Perignon’s story makes good copy, there are a few hiccups in this French tale of accidentally-on-purpose. There is documented proof that Dom Perignon actually called this wine ‘devils wine’ because he felt the unexpected outcome was actually a curse. The volatile product would explode entire shelves of wine and was a dangerous nuisance. The the final bursting of this French bubble comes with the knowledge that the English had been making sparkling wine for at least 20 years before.
In December 1662, English scientist Christopher Merret in a rather less grandiose statement wrote in his book “Some Observations Concerning the Order of Wines“ that “our wine-coopers of recent times add vast quantities of sugar and molasses to wines to make them drink brisk and sparkling”
It turns out the Brits had actually been making sparkling wine on purpose long before Dom P got dizzy. In fact, the word for sparkling wine (mousseux) didn’t appear in France until 1718.
However, as with every story of rivalry between these neighbouring nations, the French have another story to claim the Champagne throne, although this time not in Champagne at all. In Carscasonne in 1531 some Benedictine monks started making sparkling wine called Limoux with the rural method by bottling it before it finishes fermentation and gives a little fizz to the wine at the end. This is the first documentation of bubbly wine, although the ‘champenoise method’ of doing a second fermentation in bottle, remains an English invention. For now.
So when did the beautiful star drinking story appear? That would be in a Dom Perignon advert in the 19th century.
We all know nothing kicks off a party than a good bottle of bubbly. To help you get through the fiesta season here is my pick of some of the top sparkles in Argentina.
Made by Don Pedro, the maestro of Argentine sparkling wine, this bottle of bubbly spends four years on the lees and the result is a beautiful pink sparkler with great structure, a rich mouth feel and delicate aromas.
Brut Xero, Domaine St Diego
Angel Mendoza is a real character in the Mendoza wine scene and his sparkling wine is made in the ‘metodo rurale’ with just one fermentation finished in the bottle. Lovely and dry with apple pie aromas.
Alma 4, Bonarda
For a bubbly with a difference, try Sebastian Zuccardi’s red sparkling wine. A rule breaker and fashion maker, this bubbly Bonarda is definitely a foodie wine and will score points for bringing something different to the table.
Navarro Correas, Brut Malbec Rosé
In Argentina, you can’t not make a sparkling Malbec and this modern winery has admirably risen to the challenge. Delivering a fun rosé that wins points for its simplicity, red fruit aromas and great price point, bang on the nose at $50 AR.
Casa Margot, Blanc de Noir.
With half the wine coming from Syrah (and the other half Chardonnay), this is an unusual Blanc de Noir. A lovely colour and a long finish, this is best served at Casa Margot’s gorgeous restaurant in a refurbished artist’s house in Chacras.